(This report is a media release composed by the Loudoun Democratic Committee. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Shenandoah Press.)
In 2011, Democratic candidates for the General Assembly in Loudoun County campaigned on jobs, the economy and transportation. Their Republican opponents campaigned largely on similar themes.
Loudoun Democrats contended that despite their campaign rhetoric, if elected, Republicans were likely to advance a divisive social agenda. Republicans denied this throughout the 2011 campaign.
The 2012 session of the General Assembly has proven Shawn Mitchell, Dave Butler, Mike Kondratick and Loudoun’s other Democratic candidates correct. Governor McDonnell, with his Republican allies in control of the General Assembly, unleashed an avalanche of socially conservative legislation. They also blocked funding for the single most important transportation project in the state, a once-in-a-generation investment that would fuel the economic engine that is Northern Virginia and help alleviate traffic congestion: Metrorail to Dulles Airport and into Loudoun County.
“From repealing Virginia’s ‘One Handgun A Month’ law to rolling back women’s reproductive rights and erecting additional barriers to voting, Loudoun’s Republican representatives in Richmond have compiled a shameful legislative record that has contributed to Virginia becoming the laughingstock of the nation and a punch-line for late-night comedians,” stated Loudoun County Democratic Committee Chair Evan Macbeth. “Then they compounded these legislative misfires by blocking funding for Dulles rail, a project critical to the area. Republicans refused to invest in our future, denying support for a project that would help boost Loudoun’s economy for the long term while also tackling our traffic woes. Each one of them owes the citizens of Loudoun County an explanation.”
Here is a brief summary of some of the 2012 General Assembly session’s most controversial measures and where the members of the Loudoun Delegation came down:
This extremely controversial bill, if enacted, would have outlawed birth control (a Democratic amendment making clear that it would not outlaw contraception was rejected) and also outlawed the procedure of in-vitro fertilization. The bill passed the House of Delegates on a nearly straight party-line vote. The Senate was able to use a parliamentary measure to defeat the legislation, only after the Republican-controlled Senate Education & Health Committee reported it to the Senate floor on an 8-7 vote.
Voting In Favor: Dels. Comstock, Greason, LeMunyon, Minchew, Ramadan (Senators Black and Vogel voted against the motion to recommit to committee in the Senate, an expression of support for the bill)
HB 462/SB 484- “Ultrasound” Bill
These bills received the most negative publicity during the session, garnering national headlines and were regularly referenced by late-night comedians. In their original form the bills would have mandated that a woman undergo a costly, medically unnecessary and invasive “transvaginal” ultrasound prior to receiving safe and legal abortion services. Only under the weight of intense public scrutiny did Governor McDonnell intervene, rewriting the bill to mandate a costly and unnecessary “trans-abdominal” ultrasound instead.
SB 484 was sponsored by Loudoun Senator Jill Vogel, who struck her own bill (after it had already passed both the House and Senate) after she revealed on the Senate floor that she did not fully understand what the bill actually required. HB 462 passed both houses and was signed into law by Governor McDonnell.
Voting In Favor: Dels. Comstock, Greason, LeMunyon, Minchew, Ramadan; Sens. Vogel (sponsor of SB 484), Black (co-sponsor of SB 484)
* all of these members voted in favor of both versions of both bills
SB 323/HB 940- Repeal of “One Handgun A Month” Law
These bills repeal the 1993 prohibition on purchasing more than one handgun during a 30-day period. The law had been enacted in an effort to curtail gun trafficking in the Northeast. At the time, 40 percent of the guns used in crimes in New York City were being traced back to Virginia. Both measures passed the General Assembly.
Voting In Favor: Dels. Comstock, Greason, Minchew, Ramadan (co-sponsor of HB 940); Sens. Black (co-sponsor of SB 323), Vogel
SB 1/HB 9- “Voter ID” Bills
Republican legislatures across the country have been implementing these so-called “Voter ID” laws and Virginia is no exception. The proponents claim that the intent is to combat voter fraud, however, they can point to not a shred of evidence that suggests that voter fraud is widespread. In fact, a person is more likely to be hit by lightning than intentionally commit voter fraud. The reality is these laws erect additional barriers to voting for seniors, students and minorities. Both of these measures passed the General Assembly and await the Governor’s signature.
Voting In Favor: Dels. Comstock, Greason, LeMunyon, May, Minchew, Ramadan, Rust; Sens. Black (co-sponsor of SB 1), Vogel
Funding for Phase II of the Dulles Rail Project
Phase II of the Metrorail Silver Line would extend Metrorail from Reston through Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County. Economists project that the Silver Line would add billions of dollars to Loudoun’s economy in the coming decades, far outstripping its construction costs. It would promote thousands of jobs and ease traffic.
However, construction of the Silver Line is currently funded primarily through the tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. Those tolls will skyrocket, financially crippling commuters, if the state government does not invest more in the project. A failure of state funding also makes it less likely that the Loudoun Board of Supervisors will agree to support the project, and could limit Federal contributions to the project.
State Senator Mark Herring (D-33) championed the fight for additional state funding for Phase II. After he, along with his nineteen Senate Democratic colleagues, opposed budget plans that contained no funding for Phase II, he was successful at getting the State Senate to pass a budget, on a strong bipartisan vote, which contained an additional $300 million for the project.
While Loudoun’s Republican representatives in Richmond expressed varying degrees of support for Rail to Loudoun in the press, every single one voted against the bipartisan Senate budget which included the additional funds. During budget negotiations, Governor Bob McDonnell made clear his opposition to additional funds for Phase II and, in the end, Dels. Comstock, Greason, LeMunyon, May, Minchew, Ramadan, and Rust and Sens. Vogel and Black marched in lockstep with the Governor and their Republican colleagues, and against Loudoun’s future, voting for a final budget without the needed $300 million investment in Dulles rail.
In sum, the 2012 General Assembly session proved that Republican legislators were more concerned with promoting their right-wing social agenda than helping to bolster Virginia and Loudoun’s economy. They voted against women’s rights and against long-term economic development. They made it easier to traffic weapons, and harder to vote.
“The priorities and values expressed by the Republican General Assembly in 2012 are far afield from those that voters in Loudoun thought they were getting in 2011,” said Macbeth. “The bills and legislation proposed and passed have made Virginia less fair, less safe, less free, and less welcoming. We deserve better, and in 2013 we will get it.”